Posts Tagged ‘ David Bowie ’


Just An Observation: Friday November 1st

Well that is Halloween over for another year! But is it though? It would seem in line with everything else which was once a relaxed, informal bit of fun it has now become a big business that extends over a week long period. Rivalling Christmas as an ongoing theme-don’t even start me on The Dome in George Street who put their decorations for the yuletide period up several weeks ago- there were seemingly Halloween parties from Tuesday onwards and no doubt many will extend into the weekend for those who work the Monday to Friday nine to five shift, lest they miss out on anything which might make them and their lives appear more interesting than they actually are.
It is not mainly the extension of Halloween which has spoilt it for me though but the out and out Americanisation of the event. Thus we have trick or treating rather than guising, pumpkins as opposed to turnips whilst monkey nuts have all but disappeared-this is actually a blessing- and youngsters no longer have to perform or provide anything in exchange for their rewards but instead come accompanied with a sense of entitlement just for actually knocking at your door demanding something. Perhaps someone should start a curmudgeon themed festival for those like me who can no longer bear the false pretentiousness, overblown extravaganzas and commercialisation which have now spoilt every time of year once associated with celebration somehow relegating said times to an expensive and drained of fun bore!
On a more positive note tonight sees a date with the magnificent Nick Cave at the Usher Hall. An artist who stands alone foraging his own path Cave has an extensive back catalogue to pull from but even more impressively his latest offering, Push the Sky Away, ranks among his very best work which when it includes classics such as The Good Son, The Boatman’s Call and Kicking Against the Pricks among others then this is no mean feat. A full review of this gig will be posted soon after but inevitably I am expecting great things and no doubt will crumble in an emotional heap as soon as the opening lines to ‘The Ship Song’ start up; as I always do!
Following the gig –as if it needed followed- for those not ready to retire before midnight is the very welcome return of Hot Mess at the Wee Red Bar. Essentially a gay club it is as far removed from that notion as it is from anything else on the scene in Edinburgh at the moment- with the exception of Rammed about which more later- and concentrates on more on providing excellent music accompanied by equally excellent people. Once a stalwart bi-monthly experience Hot Mess has departed to Glasgow of late where its charms and attitudes seemed to be more appreciated as Edinburgh folk seem to be slow on the uptake these days as far as good clubbing is concerned; preferring instead to sit around complaining that there is nothing happening. If you are looking for a good night out with great music and interesting company then I suggest this is the place to be tonight!
The aforementioned Rammed is also returning to the Voodoo Rooms on Saturday the 16th November. This live music/club experience is back for its second instalment and this time around features the wondrous Teen Canteen as the live act. With their debut single ‘Honey’ having sold out within its first week-it is still available on iTunes however- along with extensive radio play and rave reviews it would appear that this also a date not to be missed. A full write up on Teen Canteen will be gracing these pages very soon as will further details about Rammed whose team are at the heart of organising a Lou Reed tribute night to take place during that hinterland week between Christmas and New Year featuring several select local musicians and scene faces. Details will be updated as soon as they are released.
The Lou Reed tribute night is of course in recognition of the talent and importance of Reed who sadly passed away last Sunday. Extremely important in terms of his contribution to rock and roll –both glam and punk are hugely indebted to him as is gritty realism in rock lyrics- he was also an extremely important personal figure to me and one who will be sorely missed even if his recent output failed to reach me in the same way as his work with the Velvet Underground or his solo seventies efforts such as Transformer or Berlin. Thank you, Lou!
On other musical fronts this week I was pleased to see James Blake win the Mercury Prize for his second album Overgrown which I have been playing on rotation for several months now- along with Nick Cave’s latest and Bowie’s The Next Day which Blake triumphed over at these awards- and have grown to love as an exquisite piece of music.
These albums are about to be joined by the fourth Arcade Fire album ‘Reflektor’ which on pre-release I thought was a bit overblown and indulgent but after a week of living and growing with it realise it has longevity and definitely ranks with their other output if not improving on it. The introduction od James Murphy formerly of LCD Soundsystem has given them a dancier more electronic edge which has allowed them to forge ahead into new sonic and musical terrain whilst still retaining their own individual sound.
Co-incidentally Murphy has also done a sterling remix of Bowie’e ‘Love is Lost’ from the aforementioned The Next Day which is accompanied by a $13 video which succeeds by showing up others by lesser artists with hundreds of thousands thrown at them as the artistically void pieces of work they are.
Here to kick the weekend off is that great remix of ‘Love is Lost’


Lou Reed Remembered


Yesterday October 27th was just another Sunday morning apart from the fact disorientation had set in due to the official arrival of winter with the clocks going back encouraging me to get up at an hour unthinkable a few years back. The only other thing slightly out of the ordinary was the fact I had an overwhelming urge to listen to Lou Reed’s Berlin album.

Usually an album which requires a certain mood as it is a dark, despairing and harrowing listen with little recommendation or redemption for any of its protagonists, even if its message is cloaked in some of the most awe inducing beautiful music ever recorded. Suffice to say it requires melancholic tendencies and I was far from feeling even remotely down; quite the opposite in fact. Melancholy, despair and shock arrived  only a few hours later however as I would be overwhelmed with feelings of sadness  when news of Lou Reed’s death, at the age of seventy one, began to filter through on social media and was later sadly confirmed as fact.

 Two days previously had seen an internet hoax reporting Reed’s death spread like wildfire before it was announced he was alive and kicking. As far as anyone knows at this stage he wasn’t even showing signs of the symptoms which eventually claimed him so some scepticism met the original Sunday reports of his death. In hindsight this made the news even sadder as on one of his last days on earth he had to deny he had died then forty eight hours later he was actually gone for real. In some ways this was typical Lou- rising to a challenge-who many had predicted wouldn’t live through the seventies never mind into his seventies.

 Like many others of my generation my introduction to Reed came through that font of all knowledge, David Bowie, when he tried to resurrect the faltering career of his idol by co- producing his album Transformer with Mick Ronson. Many evenings were spent with a select, elite group of friends lounging on bean bags applying nail polish, smoking mentholated cigarettes and contemplating sex in the hall as we listened to this album with its tales of decadent New York and colourful characters- Candy, Holly, Jackie and Little Joe- who we discovered were real and, at the time, all  very much alive.


 Other favourites were the New York Dolls, early Roxy Music, The Sex Pistols and Bowie but Lou seemed darker and more dangerous- look at how his made up panda eyes glared past and through you on Transformer’s metallic cover- promising a subterranean demi-monde where it was always after midnight and debauched glamour was the entry code. On top of all this he was the best singer ever and he couldn’t even sing. Perfect!

 Transformer provided a perfect point of entry to Reed’s work and before long I investigated and discovered his Velvet Underground back catalogue which totally blew my mind. To the point I still refer to their debut The Velvet Underground and Nico as my all time favourite album. It had everything; sex, drugs, sado-masochism, twisted love songs, thrashing guitars, Reed’s throwaway drawl, Nico’s Germanic icy cool and Andy Warhol’s Factory people. Here was a record which inhabited a universe all its own and unlike Bowie’s exotic characters Reed’s subject matter actually existed. Oh, how I wanted to be there!

 Discovering Lou Reed was akin to finding a guiding light in my life. He spoke to me through the medium of song in a way I could never envisage my father speaking to me. Lou understood and prevented me from feeling I was wrong when my surroundings were screaming at me otherwise. ‘White Light/ White Heat’, ‘Candy Says’, ‘What Goes On’,Kill Your Sons’, ‘Sad Song’ and ‘Satellite of Love’ are just some of the songs embedded in my emotional hard drive eternally. How also can I forget the perfect chords of ‘Sweet Jane’ or the auto biographical Rock ‘n’ Roll’? As for the blistering assault of the seventeen minutes of mayhem that is ‘Sister Ray’, which at its denouement still leaves me feeling drained, exhilarated, confused, relieved and hyperventilating all at once; well it may be a cliché but they really don’t make them like that anymore.

 Lou Reed meant something not just to me but to so many others and he will continue to mean something. At some time we all have to take a walk on the wild side hitching a ride on a satellite of love and obviously Sunday October 27th was when Lou felt that final beckoning tap on the shoulder calling him. I could go on but really I have only one thing left to say and that is ‘Thank You ’.


Just An Observation Friday October 25th


Well the long awaited revolution so many of us have wished for gained some screen time on Newsnight this week and arrived not courtesy of the latest highly educated whiz kid politician but from the unlikely source of comedian/actor, Russell Brand. in a thoroughly engaging and convincing interview with regular curmudgeon Jeremy Paxman, or ‘Jeremy darling’ as he will henceforth be known thanks to Brand’s affectionate terming of this supposed political heavyweight, the entertainer put forward a thoroughly convincing and impassioned argument.
Admittedly never a great admirer of Brand’s in the past finding his stand up irritatingly puerile and the least said about his acting abilities-never mind his choice of roles and former wife, the even more irritating Katy Perry- the better. However he has gone someway to reconstructing himself as a social and cultural commentator and in this area I feel he is pretty much unsurpassed in addressing issues politicians, journalists and most other celebrities-Morrissey a notable exception occupies a lot of the same territory but more about him later- simply do not. Dismissed by Paxman as a ‘trivial man’ Brand’s calls for revolution may on the surface come across as exactly that but dig deeper into what he is actually saying and the truth provides a concrete basis for his vocal exhortations and facial grimaces. A cheesy smile occupied his face for most of the interview and Paxman would have done well to remember the old adage ‘Beware the smiling assassin’ as at the interview’s conclusion there was no doubt as to who had trounced who.
‘Profit is a filthy word’ and ‘not voting out of absolute indifference’ were just two notable quotes in an argument which at times was peppered with florally enhanced adjectives but still managed to put across its basic terms. There is no representation in politics for a huge part of our society and I am part of that section which has no representation. The best vote open to me is for the lesser of two evils
which may go someway in preventing the greater evil triumphing.
This option however is riddled with a fatal flaw as anyone who voted for the Liberal Democrats in the last General Election discovered. I remember speaking to a young first time voter shortly after the election when the Lib Dem’s had joined forces with the Tories in the disastrous collision still in power and he was already disillusioned as voting Liberal-which he considered the most humanitarian and fair option open to him- he had found himself complicit in electing the Tories into power when his objectives had been quite the opposite. This is the disillusioned and disenfranchised populous Brand was referring to who, from what I can see, are all around me and I number myself amongst them.
As for revolution well, why not? If the EDL can make political inroads in opposition to the fairer aspects of our political system why can’t we take charge and oppose the less fair ones. Sometimes it really is that simple it is just important to not let complacency get in the way. That is the real enemy!
As mentioned earlier Morrissey is just as much an activist and has spent his career being a proverbial fly in the ointment. It is unimportant whether you like his music or not although this week The Smiths album The Queen is Dead was voted the best album of all time in the NME in a chart which, for a change, seemed to possess some integrity and validity-two of my personal top three Patti Smith’s Horses and The Velvet Underground and Nico were there with only The New York Dolls missing from the top ten- but as an artist he has always spoken out on subjects others were too scared to address or considered taboo.
His Autobiography however is redefining that overworked genre and is brilliantly written in an area where the likes of nineteen year old Harry Styles- grew up in privileged background, entered talent show, made millions-proliferate and , that filthy word again, profit. It is also obvious that he has written this book himself and the use of language is impressive, evocative and wholly descriptive. Having grown up in the greyish blacks and whites of Manchester in the sixties and seventies this harsh reality never really left him even when, as the last of the international playboys, he is breakfasting with David Bowie. Intermittent snippets of conversation between these two figureheads and reluctant representatives of different generations allow us to discern that the world of the celebrity is mundane and all most of them have in common is their status and prestige. One senses he feels more comfortable with and in awe of the low rent ‘Carry On’ stars of his childhood than the Bowies, Julie Christies and other A-Listers he encounters.
As for his much publicised admission of a sex life, well that is done in true Morrissey fashion by alluding as opposed to out and out confession. If one gains any sense of a true love in Morrisey’s life then it can be directed towards the New York Dolls rather than any individual. Jake Walters would appear to come closest to capturing his heart but even he emerges as a temporary fixture whilst the Dolls are a constant source of joy and love throughout.
Definitely an autobiography which lives up to its apocryphal title and provides what most of us want from such a tome in that it names and shames constantly and he doesn’t stop at grinding his axe but continues to swing it with reckless abandon much to the reader’s delight and amusement. It is about time someone used their position to tell it how it is and just as refreshing is his deeply descriptive telling of pivotal life moments which also are not your typical fare.
Tonight sees 2013’s last instalment of Neu Reekie with an impressive line up including Withered Hand, Kei Miller, Rachel Mc Crum amongst others. The main act for me tonight bthough has to be Teen Canteen who are also promoting their excellent debut single ‘Honey’ coincidentally released on the Neu Reekie record label-these people are already following Brand’s doctrine of getting off their arses and making something happen. This is just one of several live gigs lined up around the country over the next coming weeks including one at RAMMED in the Voodoo Rooms on November 16th. Definitely one of the best Scottish acts on the circuit at the moment catch them while you can at these more intimate venues as it is only a matter of time before this changes as their star is very much in the ascendant.
Here to get your weekend off to a flying start is the video directed by Jonathan Feemantle of that aforementioned single ‘Honey’ released this week.


Brian Eno- Movements


Brian Eno is a pivotal figure-also a surprisingly physically diminutive one- in modern music with his DNA coursing through its veins whilst his sticky fingerprints are all over it and the fact that, since the mid-seventies, he has assumed more and more of an invisible peripheral role only serves to make him all the more enigmatic. Entering the fray playing synthesizer and tapes with Roxy Music-who can forget that TOTP performance of ‘Virginia Plain’ with Eno, at the opposite end of the stage from Bryan Ferry, hunched over his synthesiser in fantasy fur and lurex gloves twiddling knobs like some crazy rock and roll professor beamed in from Planet Xenon? – before collaborating with David Bowie during his most fruitful and experimental phase of his career and rounding the decade off by producing Talking Heads , taking them into unchartered waters.

 In the interim he had a solo career and invented –or at least lent a name to- ‘ambient’ music which had previously not been considered an art form or entity in its own right. Subsequent decades have seen him work with other artists most notably U2 and James although the least said about Coldplay the better.

 This hour long talk about ‘Music’ was as varied and off the wall as his career however and his occasional diversions from the topic in hand provided both highlights and insights whilst the smooth luxury of his voice ensured he held our attention throughout.  At the denouement of his talk I felt he was only getting started and could have listened to him for another hour at least.

 Opening by informing us that certain cultures –including some parts of Africa- don’t have a word for music but do have a word for dance we are taken on a Enoesque take on the form through the ages. Interesting stop offs were the first ‘Synthesiser’, a Telharmonium, which required thirty seven train carriages alone to transport it from town to town. Upon reaching its destination it then had to plug into a major power source such as a telephone exchange so the towns inhabitants just had to lift their receiver off its cradle to hear the strange sounds coming from the musician playing from the train.

 The role of the producer-perhaps what Eno himself is best known and established as- was looked at closely with pioneering names such as George Martin and Phil Spector recognised for their legendary and groundbreaking achievements in this field and raising the role to an art in itself; giving an artist’s recorded artefacts a life of their own, vacuum packing them into a form which does not exist outside its own manifestation. Audiences and their crucial role were also brought into the discussion-a great photo of Iggy Pop crowd surfing illustrated the difference between the reverence of a classical concert and the irreverent and spontaneous nature of a rock and roll one- as well as a look at Elvis and his legendary and, for its time shocking, pelvis which introduced a new form of audience participation concentrating on the corporeal rather than the cerebral.

 Along the way an amusing tale about his one and only time as a hired session hand when the New Seekers-of all people- enlisted his services. If ever there was an incongruous pairing then this was it and it is hardly surprising the fruits of this collaboration never made it past the studio. This is probably for the best but it would make for interesting listening.

 Eno managed to make all this sound effortless-his honeyed tones provided some assist here- and was thoroughly charming and engaging throughout. An hour was no way long enough for him to cover his subject as thoroughly as he wanted to but he still managed to cram so much into this time and in no way did anyone feel cheated.  Definitely a Festival 2013 highlight for me.


Neu Reekie 37


Other commitments have forced me to take a forced hiatus from the last two Neu Reekie events so I was really looking forward to this one. Beautiful sunshine and new Scottish hopefuls The Merrylees announced as -relatively- last minute headliners only compounded my anticipatory feelings in a positive way. Unfortunately the former combined with meeting  members of the latter all mixed with a gin and tonic forced me to miss the first third of the show as the new seating set up –in place for the Fringe- didn’t encourage latecomers.

 Once installed in my seat my evening proper began with the poet Helen Ivory performing several short poems from her collection ‘Waiting for Bluebeard’. Some of the pieces were so short that the audience were unaware that they had finished so there was a hesitation in their applause. Unfortunately this caused some nervousness in Ivory who didn’t seem too comfortable in her role as a performer which was unfortunate as her poems seemed quite compelling and exploratory of another world. It was a slightly hesitant performance but her confidence in her work lay undiminished.

 Next up was Ross Hogg’s animation piece ‘The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat’ narrated by Gavin Miller-who also introduced the showcase. It was a short concise and skilfully executed piece.

 The first of the evening’s impressive line up of musical acts Gareth Sager-formerly of the Pop Group and Rip, Rig and Panic- then begun a set which sounded at times like an avant-garde exhumation of Johnny Cash and I mean that in a good way. Flying against the rules of standard musical structure but still within its boundaries he incorporated an irreverent ‘could have heard  a pin drop’ rendering of Rod Stewart’s ‘I Don’t Want to Talk about it’ and the Velvet’s ‘Pale Blue Eyes’ alongside equally impressive originals all played out against a backdrop of Warhol’s ‘Sleep’. A talent who understands where music can go and where it can take you, it was a highly emotive set with moments of fragile beauty set against gut wrenching torment.

Second of the musical line-up was Craig Lithgow and the Mutineers who arising from the remnants of former house band Emelle put on a fiery set full of cut and thrusting acoustic and electric guitars, frantic rhythms, memorable melodies alongside insightful and incisive lyrics. It was the perfect build up to the headliners of the evening, The Merrylees.

 From their opening number which was all Bowie flourish and, thanks to the introduction of a trumpet player, Scott Walker drama it was clear that the interest and plaudits surrounding this band are well deserved. Their playing was tighter than a gnats twat-as it was so endearingly but succinctly put to me-but particularly of note were guitarist Simon Allan’s guitar contributions which had a touch of Bert Weedon about them and seemed to be playing a counterpoint melody different to Ryan Sandison’s vocals which dripped like honey. Add to this a powerhouse rhythm section and even their very own Bez type figure who did his own brand of freaky dancing which almost ended in an impromptu strip but fell short of going ‘The Full Monty’; actually the dancer is not part of the band but merely an over enthusiastic friend . Bowing out with a soaring version of ‘Ghost Riders in the Sky’ it was a stunning set  confirming as a band it would seem they have a very promising future ahead of them and it is about time Scotland showed its musical muscle again. Perhaps not dancing out of time in a singlet on stage though!

 So my return to the Neu Reekie fold was every bit as good  I imagined it would be. Unfortunately I missed the opening acts but I have no doubt they were just as good as those that followed. Keep an eye out during the Fringe for events featuring founders Michael Pedersen and Kevin Williamson and clear a space in your diary for August 30th when the next official Neu Reekie returns


New York Dolls


Bursting in with a crashing wall of guitars, a cascading piano line, kick ass drums and a blood curdling, howling wolf yelp of ‘Waaaah Oooooh’ before a tantrum induced ‘yeah, yeah yeah’ volleys back with  ‘no, no, no no’  summing up the confusion and hormonal rush of adolescence perfectly, the New York Dolls launch into ‘Personality Crisis’  providing one of the great-if not the greatest- intros in rock and roll. Ever!

 From this enthralling outset it was clear that this was no ordinary band: Marc Bolan may have been responsible for ushering the seventies in whilst David Bowie launched them into orbit but it was the Dolls who took them by the scruff of their neck and throttled the life both into and out of them.

 It is fitting, in many ways, that it took a bunch of dragged up ,drugged up and wised up street kids to finally obliterate the sixties hangover which had permeated the early seventies as  the sexual ambivalence and androgyny hanging in the air crystallised in the Dolls’ ambisexual thrift store meets hooker garb and unrestrained sounds.

 Already a hit in their native New York drawing the attentions of the Andy Warhol Max’s Kansas City set- Debbie Harry, Wayne/Jayne County and The Ramones were early devotees- by the time the Dolls entered the studio they had already lost  original member 20 year old drummer Billy Murcia who, after a mandrax and alcohol fuelled evening, drowned in a bathtub in London only days after the band played their biggest gig to date supporting The Faces at Wembley. Following this ill fated English visit –which also saw a petulantly jealous and paranoid Lou Reed refusing to allow them onstage as his support act- Jerry Nolan was drafted in and provided some much needed musical muscle to the bands sound; demos of the band with Murcia lay testament to this as his drumming lacked both the visceral punch and technique of Nolan’s.

  After this dilemma had been addressed it was time for the Dolls to enter the studio proper with the issue of finding a suitably sympathetic producer next on their agenda. From a wish list which included both David Bowie and Phil Spector eventually a fellow native New Yorker and contemporary wunderkind Todd Rundgren was selected and the Dolls-unwilling and unable to follow the rigours and diligence of recording rules- were ready to move their seven day weekend party from Max’s into the studio in one swift move. Once in the studio the chaos ensued but this is what probably still makes The New York Dolls such a thrilling experience forty years down the line.

 Opening with the aforementioned ‘Personality Crisis’ the album announced its intentions from the get go. Crashing guitars provided a backdrop over which howling vocals snarled out words which simply demanded to be sung adding the icing then demolishing the cherry on the top of the cake. It was a perfect statement of intent and could hardly have failed to captivate anyone who heard it which, unfortunately in 1973, weren’t very many at all or at least nowhere near as many as should have.

The Dolls were off the starting blocks however and next track ‘Looking For A Kiss’ filched the opening line from the Shangri La’s ‘Give him a Great Big Kiss’ –‘When I say I’m in Lurve you best believe I’m In  Lurve .LU.V!’- replacing their sixties innocence with seventies knowing and sleazed up intentions. ‘I need a fixin’ a kiss’ maintained vocalist David Johansen proclaiming  ‘I feels baaaad’ but making it sound so good as he trawls the streets ‘haulin’ booty all night long’. Possibly the quintessential Dolls song it careens along with malicious and devious intent.

 The third track is the politically conscientious ‘Vietnamese Baby’ where the Dolls momentarily put sex and drugs to the side and reconvene as avenging angels with Jerry Nolan’s rapid fire militaristic drumming adding dramatic edge to an already powerful song. ‘Lonely Planet Boy’ slows things down with acoustic guitars and a saxophone solo and is the Dolls’ big ballad number. All wistful yearning and aching melancholy it is the height of youthful romance even if it does seem to allude to heroin, ‘You bring me some from your other boys’, although at this juncture none of the band had the drug habits which later blighted their reputation and ambitions.

‘Frankenstein’ rounds off side one’s proceedings nicely-in the days of vinyl such matters were important- and it is a soaring monolithic powerhouse of a song delivered in cinemascope: hysterical melodrama, duelling guitars, intense claustrophobic heat and frantic crescendos all conspire to hit heights which perfectly depict the Manhattan skyline and the skyscrapers dominating the drama. Add to this an indomitable Spectorish wall of sound and the whole exercise emerges as the Dolls’ very own ‘River Deep Mountain High’.


The second side kicks off with little fanfare and rushes headlong into the perfection of ‘Trash’ with its aching pleas, plaintive yearning lyrics, reverberating drums, ‘ooh, ooh,’ surfing backing vocals and another girl-band swipe –‘Uh ! How you call your lover boy? – delivered at a crucial moment to maximum effect. This should have been released as a single and stormed to number one all over the universe and forty years later the question ‘why wasn’t it?’ still echoes.

‘Bad Girl’ is a more traditional Stones-like rocker- comparisons to the Stones always plagued the Dolls but at this juncture the Stones were nodding off headfirst into drug somnolence and their ‘Goats Head Soup’ whilst serving up insipidly trite but undeniably catchy numbers such as the whiney ‘Angie’- and trundles along with its own lustful intentions. ‘Subway Train’ introduces sophistication into the Dolls routine, picking up and slowing down as the song demands. Both real and ridiculous-‘Someone’s in the kitchen with Dinah, I just know’- it showed off both musical skill and song writing chops in equal measure and should have silenced any non-believers who still maintained the Dolls were talent-less cross dressing charlatans..

 Famous for choosing and delivering suitable cover versions in their live act the only non-original on the album is ‘Pills’ which, although written by Bo Diddley, the Dolls moulded it to their sound and needs so perfectly it is now considered theirs in all but name. ‘’Private World’ is a rumbling bass driven ‘Louie Louie’ type number and the solitary song writing contribution by giant haystack and the only living statue in rock and roll- a term coined affectionately for him by Johansen- Arthur ‘Killer’ Kane .  ‘

‘Jet Boy’ brings the album to a close in a maelstrom of handclaps, unforgettable hooks and a middle section which sees guitarists Johnny Thunders and Sylvain Sylvain perform aerodynamics against the New York sky with no landing strip in sight. It is a truly cacophonous piece of wonderment and rounds things off perfectly.

 By the time the album was released the Dolls had already received sufficient amounts of good and bad press and although the album received generally favourable reception it was still not enough for the public to buy it in sufficient numbers. A major stumbling block-particularly in America where glam was not such big news- was the cover which saw the band each in varying stages of fucked up drag and androgyny arranged artfully on a couch daring or inviting you to enter their world. It was a cover which promised so much but required a certain amount of bravery to actually get past as even in the year Bowie was at his most outrageous glam peak it was as far from the mainstream as you could get.


 A visit to London shortly after culminated in two successful shows at Biba’s and a legendary TV appearance on the Old Grey Whistle Test which many of those watching-Joe Strummer , a couple of Sex Pistols and, most notably, future uber fan Morrissey among them- claimed fired the starting pistol for punk.

Malcolm McLaren fell in love with them as soon as they stumbled into his shop on the Kings Road; an infatuation which saw him eventually managing them then misguidedly dress them in red patent leather and adopt Communist manifestos. By this time the band was in disrepair and virtually unmanageable but he already had the blue print for his own ideas which eventually became the Sex Pistols.

Their influence was already being absorbed however and Bowie’s ‘Aladdin Sane’ album of that year was rife with Dolls references: ‘Watch That Man’ is about a night on the tiles with Johansen and girlfriend Cyrinda Foxe-who also served as inspirational muse for ‘The Jean Genie’ and  appeared in the promo video- ‘Time’ mentions recently deceased drummer  Murcia (Billy Dolls) and there is an –almost- name check for Sylvain Sylvain in ‘Drive in Saturday’.

 Despite all this cracks were already beginning to show in the Dolls retinue and were only compounded by divisions between the two self appointed leaders Johansen and Thunders. Matters were further exacerbated by Thunders and Nolan’s descent into heroin addiction whilst Johansen and Sylvain tried to keep things afloat. Poor bassist Arthur Kane was stuck in the middle and seeking solace in the bottle ended up so incapacitated he was sent to rehab several times to dry out although each time met with less success than the time before.

 By the time it came to recording their second album nine months after their debut the juggernaut was already running out of steam. Presciently titled Too Much Too Soon the album was not the unmitigated disaster it was decried as at the time. Still housing a few classic tracks – ‘Babylon’, ‘Chatterbox’ , ‘Puss ‘n’ Boots’ and ‘Human Being’ among them as well as a great cover of the Cadets novelty number ‘Stranded in the Jungle’- it was clear in the playing, shabby production and inclusion of four cover versions that this was a band not progressing but actually falling apart, even if it was beautifully so.


The record company was also obviously running scared as the debacle surrounding the cover art of the first album had raised such a fuss that the follow up had a relatively tame live shot of the band where most of their faces were obscured from view. It was only a short matter of time before things collapsed completely and by mid 1975 it was all effectively over for the Dolls.

 When punk peaked in 1977 the Dolls and their debut album started to receive the attention and respect they had deserved all along. Unfortunately their image was so stuck in the glam era that this worked against them in the stripped back deconstruction of punk.

 By this time bands such as Aerosmith and Kiss had taken the visual and musical credentials of the Dolls and turned them into something less threatening and more commercially viable. In the case of Kiss any threat of the visual appeal of the Dolls had been transformed into a cartoon with all of the sexual aspect of pushing at gender boundaries removed. They went onto mega stardom and bringing in millions whilst the Dolls languished in obscurity and debt.

 Following the Dolls, Thunders and Nolan formed the Heartbreakers and released the classic ‘L.A.M.F’ but internal drug problems beset them once again and another opportunity was missed. Thunders went onto live out his own personal rock and roll dream/nightmare, eventually succumbing to a mysterious death in 1991 with Nolan not far behind him, checking out a mere eight months later.

 Johansen made a couple of solid albums before re-inventing himself as Buster Poindexter and gaining commercial success in the eighties and later on some artistic rehabilitation with the Harry Smiths at the turn of the century.

 Sylvain and Kane fared less well and did little of any note until Morrissey reconvened the remaining Dolls for his meltdown show of 2004. Unfortunately for Kane this was his swansong and sadly he died only a matter of weeks later. The build up to this show is clearly documented in Greg Whiteley’s film ‘New York Doll’ which shows the former hell raiser as a shuffling middle aged man working in a Mormon facility centre clinging onto his memories of youth and the hope he might relive those times yet again. The fact he did is extremely touching and the film is sad, heart wrenching but still strangely inspiring.

 The main problem which always thwarted and blighted the Dolls however was summed up in the title of their castigated second album Too Much Too Soon as this is what they always promised and in that debut album it was also what they also delivered. However what they did deliver in that classic album clapped like thunder and hit like lightning. Perhaps once was more than enough!


Just An Observation Friday July 5th

 rammed photo

 Allegedly there is a heatwave on the way! At last, is all I can say, as I really need to see lots of lobster coloured people walking the streets of Edinburgh moaning about the unbearable heat and forgetting that only a short while ago they were complaining just as bitterly about the cold/wind/rain/wind (delete as applicable or don’t delete if all apply) and wishing it were a little warmer/ sunnier/drier (delete as applicable again). It is about time we had a semblance of a summer in Scotland and 2013 has not been too bad thus far although the traditional storm clouds gathered and torrential rain made a fleeting appearance as soon as the Scottish school holidays began.

Perhaps we should just reconsider when these holidays take place or whether they are necessary at all! It is definitely worth a try suspending them indefinitely if the end result is we all get better weather.  Just a thought!

 The Edinburgh International Film Festival ended last Sunday and I must admit it was with more of a whimper than a bang. Totally underwhelmed not only by the films but also by promotion of the event I find it amazing that when I am out and about so many local residents are unaware  it is even taking place. Being one of the world’s longest running events of its kind s to sweep it to the side is pretty unforgivable and shows a lack of concern for Scottish culture which is constantly undervalued anyway. Apparently one of the big sells this year was that they were showing many films which had been refused by other similar film festivals although whether this is a good or bad thing is still unclear in my mind. Did we show the cream of the crop or were we scraping the dregs from the bottom of the barrel.

Not everything was bad however and for a more detailed report of what is and isn’t worthwhile just click here for more detailed insights and reviews.

 Next week sees T in the Park make a return which means that inevitably so will the rain. Last year was more T in the Swamp and turned into a totally washed out mudfest. I am being pressured into going to see Kraftwerk on the Friday evening-which I am convinced would be really quite something- on the premise that I will be in the VIP area. I must admit to being tempted but would be more tempted if I was being transported in and out via a specially chartered helicopter.

Much as I love Kraftwerk I have seen them live before in much more suitable pristine surroundings and they were simply outstanding and among one of the best live shows I have ever seen. I am not sure I want this memory sullied by mud and the indignity of portaloos.

 This weekend there are two interesting events occurring though as luck would have it they are both on at the same time. First up is the launch of Neu! Reekie co-founder Michael Pedersen’s debut poetry collection, Play With Me, at the Scottish Storytelling Centre. Several years of hard work finally comes to fruition at this event which also features appearances by former Fire Engine and current Jesus! Baby singer Davy Henderson alongside fellow Neu! Reekie cohort Kevin Williamson among others. Definitely one to check out if you can although if you miss it there will be a similar follow up event on Friday 16th August as part of the International Book Festival.

 Elsewhere an intriguing and adventurous new night featuring live music within a club environment called Rammed is launching at the Speakeasy in the Voodoo Rooms at 8pm. Its creators claim they are trying to put back some of the elements missing from Edinburgh nightlife over the last few years whilst adding a few new elements to ensure that proceedings remain both current and relevant. Musical acts for the launch are the unforgettable Homesick Aldo and the riotous Andy and the Prostitutes with DJ sets by the Baron and Anna Kissed. There is already a buzz about this event and if toxic glamour and excellent music is your thing then I suggest you make sure you don’t miss it.

 That is it for this week and I am off out to bask in, what I am hoping by now is tropical sunshine. Either that or I am staying indoors to hunt out a pair of wellies and parka to go and see Kraftwerk. Now that is a sentence I thought I would never write!